Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Wiz Biz 4: Optimus Reim!

This is an experimental column where I look at issues of the day and comment on them in a sentence or two. It's meant to be funny and somewhat insightful. I hope it lasts...

  • Assist from Greg Wyshinski over at Puck Daddy, goal by Pucking Hilarious for this Optimus Reim t-shirt. I loathe the Toronto Maple Leafs but it's hard to argue against James Reimer's impressive run as their goaltender. They had a fighting chance up until this weekend...
  • As I discovered in the wee hours of the morning, via CapGeek's Twitter feed, the Detroit Red Wings have signed forward Cory Emmerton to a three year contract. The final two seasons are one way, which means Emmerton better earn a spot on the roster or he will find himself waived or released. I don't think it will come to either of those things, as Emmerton has been impressed in his limited time in the lineup.
  • Hopefully forward Manny Malhotra of the Vancouver Canucks will be okay. The eye injury required a second surgery, which was successful. It really cripples that PK unit with both Malhotra and Dan Hamhuis out.

  • Dirty hit? There's a lot of chatter about Todd Bertuzzi's hit on Ryan Johnson last night. Personally, I agree with Bob MacKenzie's assessment. The hit had an awkward turn by Bert with very unfortunate results. The 5 minute misconduct was enough. The league wound up not suspending Bertuzzi, which is a reasonable decision. Given how inconsistent the NHL is with suspensions, I expected anything from 4 games to nothing. The Twitter world was abuzz with "violent offender" this and "lock him in a cell" nonsense. I recognize how deplorable the Steve Moore incident was, but everyone deserves to be forgiven for their mistakes. Especially Bertuzzi, who has apologized numerous times, served his suspension, and has offered everything he can to Steve Moore.
  • The playoffs are coming soon, and Sports Club Stats is the best site to keep track of your teams chances of getting into the playoffs. We're getting very close to some teams going from 0.0% chances to being out. There might even be three teams (Minnesota, St. Louis, Columbus) eliminated tonight. The plot thickens....
  • That's all for now. My pick for tomorrow night is Anaheim vs. Calgary on TSN. Calgary needs to win every game at this point, but beating up on Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry and company will be no easy feat. My prediction: Calgary wins in a shootout, 5-4!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Things I learned from Detroit vs. Chicago 3/28/2011

This is a random collection of thoughts that occurred during the Wings/Hawks game tonight. Nothing insightful here.

  • Bert, keep dem boes down. Pick a better time to throw them up, like on the dance floor.
  • You know what, don't do that either. Just don't use your elbows. Ever.
  • Chicken-poop is an acceptable hockey term, via Mike Milbury.
  • Nick Lidstrom became the first 40+ year old defenseman to score 60 points. Incoming Norris? Hard to argue against it.
  • J-Mac is a rock in nets. He brought it tonight.
  • It's not a real hockey game unless 75 penalties are called.
  • It's not a real hockey game unless there are several non-calls or Tomas Holmstrom bullshit.
  • Toews is an impressive player, no doubt. But holy moley Moses let's get some other superstars some talk time.
  • Mike Milbury is the most random person ever born.
  • Henrik Zetterberg knows ALL the angles.
  • Hey Patrick Kane, heard you got robbed.
  • NO GOAL. Distinct kicking motion.
  • Everything PMG says is extremely awkward....
  • J-Mac is really, really sharp tonight. 5 to go at the Joe.
  • Pretty intense game. Out of snacks after 5 minutes.
  • Of course penalties decided this game. Great game, but there were some ticky tack calls and there's nothing more loathesome than when a good game is controlled by the referees. If you don't call it in the playoffs, don't call it in a regular season game.
  • Still don't like Hossa.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Wiz Biz 3: Playoff Eulogy Edition

This is an experimental column where I look at issues of the day and comment on them in a sentence or two. It's meant to be funny and somewhat insightful. I hope it lasts...

Before we get started, this is a special edition of the Wiz Biz where I salute the valiant but futile efforts of NHL teams officially eliminated from playoff contention. When a team is eliminated, they deserve a final sendoff...

  • The Ottawa Senators were eliminated a while back but they deserve to be acknowledged for their fine effort. Despite being out of the big playoff race following a massive skid in January, there were a lot of positives to come out of this season. Erik Karlsson is rounding into a reliable defensemen, Craig Anderson appears to be the goalie of the future, and Chris Phillips was locked into a contract extension. Unfortunately, this ranks among the Senators' worst seasons and a lot of question marks plague the team's future, including the effectiveness of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Sergei Gonchar. It appears as though it's time for this team to rebuild around its core stars.
  • The Florida Panthers were eliminated over the weekend, marking the 10th consecutive season they have missed the playoffs. To say the team needs a major overhaul is an understatement. Luckily, forwards Stephen Weiss and David Booth will be a good start. However, losing Tomas Vokoun to free agency is a big blow to the team's future. As the team continues to struggle with attendance as well as on the ice, there needs to be an overhaul of the franchise in every aspect.
  • The New York Islanders have struggled for the past few seasons to maintain a competitive edge in their edition. John Tavares is going to be the face of the franchise for years to come, but there are a number of young scorers who put up impressive numbers: Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Blake Comeau, and Tavares all picked up 20 or more goals this season. Scoring won't be a problem in the future...but goaltending may be. After going through Rick DiPietro, Dwayne Roloson, Al Montoya, Kevin Poulin, Nathan Lawson, and Mikko Koskinen, the Islanders have just about exhuasted their goaltending resource with no clear cut number one. It's likely they will begin next season with DiPietro, Poulin, and Montoya on the depth chart. Not the best tandem in the league given DiPietro's continuous injuries, but they can be hopeful the American goaltender will finally emerge as the legitimate starter they thought he was when they signed him to that huge contract.
  • Rest in Peace, Edmonton Oilers. I've already covered my disdain for the Oilers in a previous Wiz Biz but I'll rant yet again on why this team stunk this year. Full marks to the young players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Andrew Cogliano, and Sam Ganger. No one expected these kids to do a damn thing this year. And they didn't. But they would have done more than nothing if it wasn't for the bad season Nikolai Khabibulin. In seasons not too far out of memory, the Bulin wall was a terrifying opponent who stifled some of the league's most potent offenses. This season, he's been nowhere near his old self. To an extent it seems like he gets out of bed just to collect that fat paycheck, but I'm sure the competitor inside of him expected Edmonton not to be devoting so much time toward rebuilding. Ah well.
  • Colorado. The Avalanche. Buried by the weight of having to match the results of last season, where Craig Anderson strapped the team to his back and marched up the standings to get the team into the postseason. This year, Anderson was off his game and a combination of untimely injuries and just piss poor play sent the Avalanche back into the basement. This is a team that needs to make some big moves to secure what they just gave away for peanuts: goaltending. Is it time to shop John Michael Liles? Perhaps a coaching change? A front office shake down? It could be all three. Having a lottery pick will help.

Glory Days: Remembering NHL Legends

This is the first of many retrospective looks on former NHL players of the modern age of hockey, which I define as the 1979-1980 to present. The purpose of doing this is to remind people that beyond the Gretzkys, Messiers, Lemieuxs, and Yzermans, there were other players who gave franchises outstanding performances over their careers.

Peter Šťastný (1980-1995)
Until Joe Sakic arrived in Quebec, there was no more prolific player than Peter Šťastný. With all due respect to Michel Goulet, who had an outstanding career on his own, Šťastný was their captain from 1985 to 1990 and fronted one of the most exciting lines in the history of the National Hockey League.

Indeed, no other brother combination could score quite like the Šťastný brothers of Czechoslovakia. Peter, the center of the Šťastný line, was the most talented of the three brothers, and put up some impressive statistics during his NHL career...Wikipedia delivers:

Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1980–81 Quebec Nordiques NHL 77 39 70 109 37 5 2 8 10 7
1981–82 Quebec Nordiques NHL 80 46 93 139 91 12 7 11 18 10
1982–83 Quebec Nordiques NHL 75 47 77 124 78 4 3 2 5 10
1983–84 Quebec Nordiques NHL 80 46 73 119 73 9 2 7 9 31
1984–85 Quebec Nordiques NHL 75 32 68 100 95 18 4 19 23 24
1985–86 Quebec Nordiques NHL 76 41 81 122 60 3 0 1 1 2
1986–87 Quebec Nordiques NHL 64 24 53 77 43 13 6 9 15 12
1987–88 Quebec Nordiques NHL 76 46 65 111 69
1988–89 Quebec Nordiques NHL 72 35 50 85 117
1989–90 Quebec Nordiques NHL 62 24 38 62 24
1989–90 New Jersey Devils NHL 12 5 6 11 16 6 3 2 5 4
1990–91 New Jersey Devils NHL 77 18 42 60 53 7 3 4 7 2
1991–92 New Jersey Devils NHL 66 24 38 62 42 7 3 7 10 19
1992–93 New Jersey Devils NHL 62 17 23 40 22 5 0 2 2 2
1993–94 St. Louis Blues NHL 17 5 11 16 4 4 0 0 0 2
1994–95 St. Louis Blues NHL 6 1 1 2 0
NHL totals 977 450 789 1239 824 93 33 72 105 125

As you can see, Peter was a prolific goal scorer of the 1980s, along with the likes of Goulet, Bossy, and the host of other NHL legends everyone already knows. He holds a few interesting statistical records within the NHL:

  • 8th all time in points per game with 1.268 points per game.
  • 1st rookie to score 100 points in a season.
  • most assists by a rookie (70).
  • 6 straight 100 point seasons (1 of 7 to do so).
  • Most points in a single road game (8).
  • 1 of 4 people to score 1000 points in the 1980s.

Peter sports some impressive records and accomplishments aside from his statistical prowess. He won the Calder Trophy for an outstanding rookie season, four medals in four years of IIHF World Championships from 1976-1979 (back to back gold followed by back to back silver), silver playing for Czechoslovakia in the 1976 Canada Cup, a gold playing for Canada in the 1984 Canada Cup, and appeared for Slovakia in the 1994 Winter Olympics, making him a player who played for three unique countries in international competition. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998, making him the first European born and trained player to make it. In 2000, he was honoured by the IIHF by being inducted into their Hockey Hall of Fame. Finally, in 2002, he was given the honour of being inducted into the Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame.

Beyond his accomplishments, Peter was part of a rivalry that was violent, volatile, and vibrant in the 1980s: the Montreal Canadiens and the Quebec Nordiques. After defeating the Canadiens in the 1981-1982 Adams Semi-Final, the Nordiques were defeated by the Habs in 1983-84 in the Adams Final. In 1984-85, the Nordiques got their revenge, winning in the Adams Finals. In 1986-87, they lost to the Habs in the Adams final. This would mark the last time Quebec would qualify for the playoffs until 1993 when they were the first victims in Montreal's journey to their 24th Stanley Cup. Here is Peter's greatest contribution to the storied rivalry:

Were it not for Peter, Anton, and Marian Peter Šťastný, the Nordiques franchise would never have been competitive against their provincial rivals. In a fitting twist of fate, Peter's second son, Paul, has been playing for the Colorado Avalanche (the relocated Quebec Nordiques) since he began his professional career in 2006. He currently dons the same number 26 that his father wore for over a decade in Quebec, and had retired before the team was relocated.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Wiz Biz 2: A Few More Thoughts

This is an experimental column where I look at issues of the day and comment on them in a sentence or two. It's meant to be funny and somewhat insightful. I hope it lasts...

  • HUGE game tonight in Boston as the Bruins face the Canadiens for the first time since the Max Pacioretty Incident. Mark Recchi's recent bout of verbal diarrhea has reopened the discussion about the legality of the hit, the credibility of Montreal's doctors, and of course most importantly, informed us all that Patches has a Twitter account. I'm not very good at predictions but I'm willing to take a shot in the dark here and say there might be a fight or two.
  • According to a Brand Keys sports report, the most loyal fans in the NHL are...drumroll...the Detroit Red Wings. The top five are the Wings, the Philadelphia Flyers, the San Jose Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Boston Bruins. Huh, interesting, they're all Stanley Cup contenders. So who are the bottom five? In reverse order they are the Nashville Predators/Tampa Bay Lightning (how do you tie?), the Phoenix Coyotes, the New York Islanders, the Saint Louis Blues, and in last place, your Atlanta Thrashers. All teams with either financial issues, terrible attendance, or also rans for playoff contention. No surprises on this list. Oddly enough, the site doesn't list and quantifiable data...fishy, isn't it?
  • Chris Osgood, the blog's namesake, is back on IR. Most Red Wings fans will admit to a degree of frustration with this story, as Ozzy was supposed to be back in nets almost two weeks ago. Well, it looks like he might not even make it back for playoff hockey, which means more Joey MacDonald. Luckily MacDonald has been playing uncharacteristically well with a 4-4-2 record and and impressive 2.10 GAA. Jimmy Howard is the man in Motown, but if he falters in the playoffs, Detroit is in trouble.
  • Corey Perry for Hart? Not in my world, but the Ducks are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have creeped up on the Western conference playoff knuckleduster. Jonas Hiller is back, too. No one is going to want that match up in the first round. Even if Hiller is rusty in nets, journeyman Ray Emery seems to be picking up the slack just fine.
  • Zack Parise might be back by the end of the year. Why bother? According to the amazing site Sports Club Stats, the New Jersey Devils have a 0.1 per cent chance of getting into the playoffs, with a maximum possible 90 point season, assuming they go undefeated in their final nine games. I can understand a player wanting to get back, but there's no reason to rush back just to make three or four token appearances.
  • Finally, in international news, it's occurred to me that this blog has a small audience in the beautiful country of Hungary. Does Hungary like hockey? You bet they do. As of today Hungary is sitting in 20th place among all international ice hockey teams. They finished 2nd in Division I's Group B tournament in 2010 and are looking to win in Group A in 2011, where they will be co-hosting with Ukraine. A win at this tournament would boost them back up into the big tournament where perennial powerhouses like Canada, Sweden, Russia, and the United States play. Big props to goaltender Zoltán Hetényi of 2010's Hungarian squad for being the top goalie of Group B last tournament, registering two shutouts and giving up just two goals en route to Hungary's 4-1 record. He didn't win Goaltender of the Tournament for some reason...British netminder Stephen Murphy won with significantly worse numbers as Great Britain finished 4th in the group. So our boy Hetényi out duels him in a 2-0 shutout and doesn't get top goalie nod? Quite the rob job. In any event, GO HUNGARY!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mark Recchi: The People's Champ?

As it has been reported via several different news mediums, Mark Recchi has risen from the crypt to weigh in on the almost-forgotten days of the Max Pacioretty Incident. Days of Y'Orr, a really good Boston Bruins blog, gives us a brief transcript of what Recchi said this afternoon regarding the hit, Patches' recovery, and how the league was justified in its decision not to suspend Zdeno Chara.

Audio. Is. Here.

To sum it up, Recchi believes the report of Patches' injury was the result of an unfortunate hockey play, that the injury report was embellished, and that the Habs were looking to get Zdeno suspended to gain an advantage in a playoff race. Huh. Interesting.

Aside from the devout homerism of the guys who conducted the interview, or the Days of Y'Orr blog itself, does Recchi have a point?

It's okay to defend your player from scrutiny, but to suggest some sort of conspiracy to get the "best defenseman" suspended to get an advantage? Them's fighting words. If I recall correctly, the last time these teams played, Montreal handed Boston their lunch. Then took it back and ate it right in front of them. Thursday game should be another highly entertaining showdown of two teams who legitimately despise each other.

As for Recchi, it's hard not to respect a guy who has been a mainstay in the NHL since the Jurassic era. Still, he's got an obvious bias, and if my team were crumbling (4-3-3 in their last 10) I would do what I could to distract everyone from that fact as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Wiz Biz: A Few Thoughts

This is my first experimental column where I look at issues of the day and comment on them in a sentence or two. It's meant to be funny and somewhat insightful. I hope it lasts...

  • So Matt Cooke gets suspended for the rest of the regular season plus the first round. Then he says he's sorry. I wonder if Mario thinks he can change him from on-ice bad boy to the man he thinks he could be. The soap opera continues...
  • Are people still saying PK Subban is a brash, arrogant snot who has no respect for his peers? I guess so. What is it about this guy that brings out such hate? Is it the diving? Or is it because he's already better than most defenseman in the league?
  • Hudler, Datsyuk, Franzen, Ozzy. It's hard to believe the Wings managed to come back from down 4-0 to get the shootout charity point. Then again...when they're healthy come playoff time...Western Conference, you're on notice.
  • Hulsizer is hanging tough in his battle to win the Phoenix Coyotes. Congrats, you get to front a team that lost $40 million dollars this year and is less than two seasons removed from bankrupcy. I don't think this sale is going to happen, but if it does, things need to change in the desert.
  • In international news, Swedish Elite League's HV-71 pulled a 2003 Detroit Red Wings and got swept in the first round of their playoffs, scoring four goals in four games. Ouch. In keeping with the Red Wing theme, HV-71's goalie this season? Former Wings prospect Daniel Larrsson.
  • Ray Emery picked up one of the NHL's Stars of the Week. He might end up being the playoff go-to goalie for Anaheim, a team his Senators fell to in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals. I always find it funny how the game takes players and puts them in places they never thought they would be. Good luck to Emery in his comeback.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Canadian Content: The NHL's Canadian Teams This Week

Overall, it wasn't a very good week for Canadian clubs the National Hockey League. As it stands today, Montreal and Vancouver are Canada's only hopes for the Stanley Cup to return to it's home and native land. Toronto and Calgary continue to struggle their way into a playoff spot, but they aren't doing themselves any favors by losing key matches. For now, it looks like one third of Canada's teams are going to get into the playoffs.

Montreal: Not a good week for the Habs, losing two of three to playoff hopefuls Washington (4-2) and the New York Rangers (6-3). The game against Washington appeared to be in reach until Mike Knuble potted a late 3rd period goal to pad the lead. The game against the Rangers was a gong show from the beginning, with the Rangers scoring five on Carey Price in the first period alone. The bright spot for the Habs this week was their 3-2 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shootout wins imply a close game, which is to be expected in the late stages of the season, but when you lost your other two games on the week it doesn't look good. Luckily, as this column is being completed, Montreal holds an 8-1 lead over Minnesota. Woah.

Toronto: The Leafs didn't do themselves any favors this week by losing two of four, including a game against the Florida Panthers (4-0) that should have been a gimme. Their wins against Carolina (3-1) and Boston (5-2) were big statements saying "hey, we're not done yet!" Hopefully in the upcoming week, the Leafs can handle a hungry Minnesota team early in the week, a weak Colorado team with nothing to play for, and at least compete with the Red Wings on Saturday night. They're still in it, but it doesn't look good. Every game is a must-win.

Ottawa: The Sens are out of it but have pride to play for. They went 2-2, beating Tampa on Saturday night and driving a stake through the heart of the resurrected New Jersey Devils two night before that. Good way to end the week, considering their net was filled against Buffalo (6-4) and Pittsburgh (5-1) at the start of the week. At least they have a chance to play spoiler against Carolina and the Rangers this week.

Edmonton: A light week for Edmonton, with three games played spread out nicely. Unfortunately, it resulted in three losses, including a crushing loss to Colorado at home in a shootout. Next year is promising...so long as Khabibulin isn't in nets. 2-17-1 in his last 20, the Bulin wall is just picking up a paycheck. It's a little sickening at this point.

Calgary: Only two games in the week for Calgary as other teams caught up in games played. Both were played at home to Phoenix (4-3 Loss) and Colorado (5-2 Win). Calgary has everything it needs to push into the playoffs. Right now, stars like Jerome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff need to stay sharp and play their best as other teams play furiously. It's a heavy schedule this week with Anaheim tonight, Los Angeles Monday, San Jose Wednesday, and Edmonton on Saturday night. It's a California trip the Flames can't afford to treat like a vacation.

Vancouver: The Canucks are the toast of the league and had a 2-1 week which featured a 3-1 loss to Phoenix team that keeps winning. Their position as a division winner is clinched, but with a huge matchup against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, they might want to wait until the weekend to start resting their stars. From this point forward, it's about maintaining momentum but protecting the team leaders.

Who is the Best Defenseman of Our Time?

With the career of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom coming to an end in the next season or two, the debate has begun about his place in hockey history. Hundreds of hockey pundits have weighed in on the question and in general it appears that Bobby Orr is untouchable. It's nearly impossible to refute Orr's status as the best defenseman in hockey history: the statistics, the trophies, the legendary goals. The photo of Bobby Orr scoring and soaring is iconic and arguably the greatest photograph of hockey history.

So let's put the debate to rest. Bobby Orr is the best. He even deserves consideration for the best player of all time.

This leaves dozens of great blueliners who have changed the game on the cutting room floor. Perhaps it is unfair for us to compare a player like Orr to someone like Al MacInnis or Nick Lidstrom or Ray Bourque, who played in a different era and played a different style. In order to give proper credit to these "Modern Age" defensemen, we need to ask the question differently: who is the best defenseman since Bobby Orr?

The question is posed with the caveat that Orr was the best defenseman in all of the years he played and before him. There is something to be said about the Red Kellys, Eddie Shores, and Doug Harveys of the earlier years, but this is another blog post to be written by someone who saw those players play and is more qualified to judge their play in relation to Orr or any other player of that time.

For now, we'll say the "Modern Age" of the NHL is the 1979-1980 season. This is a nice, round season that not only saw the likes of Ray Bourque, Wayne Gretzky, and Mike Gartner join the league, but also saw the WHA merge with the NHL. As a result, the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, New England (later Hartford) Whalers, and Quebec Nordiques joined the NHL. Finally, it also marked the first season where helmets were a mandatory piece of equipment. Hard to believe in today's concussion filled discussions that players like Harvey, Kelly, Orr, and more could have played without a helmet.

Since the 1979-1980 season, fifteen players have won the James Norris Memorial Trophy, handed out to the best defenseman in the NHL. Of those fifteen players, Rod Langway, Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque, Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch, and Nick Lidstrom have won more than one trophy. Of these six players, only Ray Bourque and Nicklas Lidstrom have won more than three. Finally, Nicklas Lidstrom currently has six trophies, with a potential seventh coming in the current 2010-2011 season.

If the title of "best defenseman of our time" was to be delivered based on individual trophies alone, Nicklas Lidstrom would be king.

But that would be too easy and no fun. And it discounts the efforts of defenseman who won less trophies than he has, including players who didn't win a Norris but were still outstanding. Furthermore, there's the Dennis Potvin problem; he won all of his Norris trophies while Orr was still playing. He went on to win four Stanley Cups with the Islanders from 1979-80 until they were finally toppled in 1983-84 by an Edmonton Oiler team filled with Hall of Famers.

So, shall we explore the statistical avenue of judging defensemen? The conversation gets even more muddled when statistics are included because some defensemen are scorers, some are physical, some are geniuses in their own end. Nonetheless, here's a simplistic look at the top ten scoring defensemen since 1979-1980 (not including this season's numbers):

Name Games Played Goals Assists Points Playoff Games Playoff Goals Playoff Assists Playoff Points
R. Bourque 1612 410 1169 1579 214 41 139 180
P. Coffey 1409 396 1135 1531 194 59 137 196
A. MacInnis 1416 340 934 1274 177 39 121 160
P. Housely 1495 338 894 1232 85 13 43 56
L. Murphy 1615 287 929 1216 215 37 115 152
D. Potvin 1060 310 742 1052 185 56 108 164
N. Lidstrom 1412 237 809 1046 247 50 125 175
B. Leetch 1205 247 781 1028 95 28 69 97
L. Robinson 1384 208 750 958 227 28 116 144
C. Chelios 1651 185 763 948 268 31 113 144

Whew, those are incredible statistics. Again there must be a caveat that Potvin and Robinson's totals include seasons before 1979-80, but both played beyond that point and both outscored Orr in their careers. It's interesting to note that playoff points tell a story on their own, especially in the case of Housley and Leetch. Interestingly, neither Murphy or Housley won the Norris in their careers, and Housley is the only player on the list who never won a Stanley Cup.

So how does this help us measure who is the best? The truth is, statistics tell a big part of the story when it comes to the careers of these defensemen. However, it isn't the whole story. Scoring is great, but individual accolades must be taken into consideration as well. Let's establish a scoring system of our own.
First place in regular season scoring gets 10 points, with second getting 9 points, and so on. First place in playoff scoring gets 10 points, second gets 9, and so on. A Stanley Cup, while an amazing accomplishment, warrants a single point. A Conn Smythe Trophy, handed out to the NHL's most valuable player in the playoffs, deserves 10 points because it is remarkably more difficult to win than most other NHL trophies. The Norris Trophy, handed out to the league's best defenseman, deserves 5 points. A Hart Trophy deserves 10 points. All other trophies, including Olympic gold, deserve 2 points. We're not going to get into Hall of Fame status because, arguably, everyone who lands in the top ten on this list will be a Hall of Famer. Att Star Team status is also something that can be discounted because they're all going to be multi-time All Star team members, and that's too many additional calculations to make. This leads us to the following scores for NHL defensemen since 1979-80:

Final Standings:

Nicklas Lidstrom: 58
Ray Bourque: 51
Paul Coffey: 38
Chris Pronger: 36
Larry Robinson: 32
Dennis Potvin: 32
Al MacInnis: 32
Brian Leetch: 31
Chris Chelios: 28
Scott Stevens: 16
Larry Murphy: 15
Phil Housley: 8

Interestingly, despite not making the top 10 in offensive stats, Chris Pronger and Scott Stevens fare relatively well. Murphy and Housley, on the other hand, do not. Rod Langway's two Norrises alone would place him ahead of Housley! There is a bit of a logjam at 32 points, good for 5th on the list, between Robinson, Potvin, and MacInnis. If anyone is interested in seeing where all of the points come from in detail, feel free to leave a comment and I'll post them. Trust me when I say it took hours to compile the data.

So this leaves us with Nicklas Lidstrom winning the title of "best defenseman of our time" according to the scoring system. Ray Bourque is a respectable 2nd, with Paul Coffey in distant 3rd. It could be argued that this system punishes non trophy winners, which is true, but it also rewards scoring defensemen like Housley and Murphy.

Where do you fall on the "best defenseman of our time" argument? Personally, I believe Lidstrom, Bourque, and Potvin come 1-2-3. Let the debate continue!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Five Reasons to Bring Back the Winnipeg Jets

Unless you've been living under a bridge, or a rock, or something large enough to shield you from society, you probably know something about the potential return of hockey to Winnipeg. If you don't know anything, have a look at this, this, or even this. I won't pretend that those articles are enough to explain the whole situation, or that I'm an expert. I will, however, take the time to give you five good reasons why the Jets should come back.

1. MORE HOCKEY IN CANADA: With the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes being delayed by the Goldwater Institute, Canada moves closer to reclaiming the franchise it lost during tough economic times. Don't get me wrong, the six Canadian NHL teams are doing just fine. From the perspective of a hockey fan, the teams are entertaining (save Ottawa post-deadline and the untimely injury of Daniel Alfredsson) and the future is relatively bright for on ice success. However, it's always nice to have the Hockey Night in Canada lineup not dominated by Montreal or Toronto.

2. THE WINNIPEG WHITE OUT: Props to the Phoenix Coyotes fans who have continued the tradition of blinding the opposition with a sea of white towels and t-shirts. If there's one thing I remember about the Jets, aside from getting Kris Draper for a dollar, it's that mass of fans screaming at the top of their lungs clad in the brightest white these eyes have ever seen.

3. JETS APPAREL: That classic logo is one of the more memorable things to come from the WHA. While there have been murmurs of the Winnipeg team not necessarily being called the Jets, it would be a pretty big blunder not to include the retro jerseys of yesteryear in the comeback. Retro and alternative jerseys are a huge market to fans and logic says Jets gear would go over big. Maybe not in Phoenix.

4. SHANE DOAN: It would be a dream come true for Winnipeg Jets fans to see their last player return with the team. As the last remaining Jet and captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, Doan has popularity with the fans and would finally receive the kind of press that he deserves. A Canadian born captain returning with a relocated Canadian team sounds very, very marketable to me. Not to mention he can play.

5. THE DIVISION SHUFFLE: Perhaps the most self serving reason on this list, a Jet return could mean a big shuffle in the divisions of the NHL. Moving the Jets from Phoenix's spot in the Pacific Division into the Northwest Division with the other three Canadian teams of the West might prompt more shuffling that could include Detroit getting a chance to move into the Eastern Conference and finally get a chance to play some more meaningful rivals. As huge a rivalry as Detroit vs. Nashville is, with it's immense eleven year history full of meaningful games, wouldn't it be wiser to place Detroit in a division with, say, the Canadiens and Maple Leafs? No? Well, off the soapbox I come.

The return of the Jets is still a long shot today, but the coming weeks are going to be important when it comes to the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes. Should the 'Yotes stay put, Manitobans will turn their attention to the league's other struggling team, the Atlanta Thrashers. This would definitely be a less meaningful purchase, but at this point the hockey fans of Manitoba will take what they can get.

How to Defeat the Detroit Red Wings

Oh, to be a Detroit Red Wings fan when the playoffs come.

Over the last several days I have written and tweeted the outstanding gentlemen of Puck Daddy Radio, Greg Wyshinski and Rob Pizzo. On Friday's episode of Puck Daddy Radio, the question the crew asked listeners was what team seems to consistently defeat your team. After writing a long diatribe about how the San Jose Sharks have taken the advantage in the rivalry with last year's 4-1 defeat, I decided there was a more notable rivalry. No, not the Colorado Avalanche. Since the days of Roy and the Statue of Liberty goal of '02, Colorado has struggled to compete the way their powerhouse team did in the late 90's and early millennium team has. The great rivals of the Detroit Red Wings are none other than...the Detroit Red Wings.

Before you roll your eyes and proclaim "Oh, you snobbish Wings fan," hear the argument first. The Red Wings have long proven their status as a model franchise in professional sports, and this article isn't going to rehash all of the years of success and the piles of trophies won. Beyond the accolades there is a glaringly obvious flaw to Detroit's twenty year playoff run.

The early exits. The upsets.

Yes, those years. Red Wings fans know them all very well. Since 1991 there have been five first round exits. 1991 wasn't exactly a year where Detroit was expected to compete with Hull and Oates of St. Louis, but it falls into the jurisdiction of the twenty year run. Realistically, Detroit has been favored to win their first round match ups in 1993, 1994, the Cup Finals in 1995,the first round in 2001 and again in 2003, in the second round of 2004, and the first round of 2006. Each one of these match ups were lost and considered to be big upsets.

So, is there a trend amongst these losses?

The short answer is yes, to an extent. In all of these match ups, Detroit was the higher ranked seed. Each one of these playoffs series featured a team with arguably less talent than Detroit. That's not to take away from the accomplishments of the victorious. Those teams certainly earned their wins by outplaying the Wings, but they all followed a similar strategy that was perfected by New Jersey in 1995: outwork the team, grind them down with defensive effort, and ride the hot goaltender.

1994 is the first example of Detroit, the Western Conference's regular season champion, losing in the first round to the San Jose Sharks. '94 featured a team that led the league in goals scored by a very comfortable 50 goals and featured six 70 point men, including Hart, Pearson, and Selke trophy winner, Sergei Fedorov. Not to be forgotten, this also featured the debut of Wings legend and this blog's namesake, Chris Osgood. The NHL recently make a "History Will Be Made" commercial out of Jamie Baker's game 7 backbreaking goal. Never say never, indeed.

Shaking off the misery of being beaten by the 8th seed in the West, Detroit came back strong in 1995's shortened season, mauling the competition in the first three rounds of the playoffs. The fans chanted "who cares?" when the Devils lineup was announced at Joe Louis Arena, only to be silenced by a rookie Martin Brodeur and a defensive minded Devils team helmed by the legendary Jacques Lemaire. This marked the beginning of the strategy of using defense-first tactics to grind down a more talented Detroit Red Wings team.

The strategy would be repeated in 2003 by J.S Giguere the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, in 2004 by the Calgary Flames (although it should be argued Miikka Kiprusoff bamboozled Detroit's offense with two shutouts in the final two games of the series) and once more by Cup finalists Edmonton Oilers in 2006.

So how does this relate to Detroit being Detroit's worst enemy? Well, to be fully honest, each time Detroit was beaten by a lesser seed and a less talented team, they were outworked. The regular season success proved to give a false sense of security that the team was much better than the others who struggled to get into the playoff tournament. Sometimes the scoring wasn't there, and sometimes the goaltending wasn't there. Either way, their opponents took advantage of the Wings thinking the first couple of playoff rounds would be a breeze.

Part of hockey is keeping your head in the game and not getting ahead of yourself. I would never suggest that any of the Wings players of those losing teams were anything but professionals. However, if there is one lesson to be learned from the Red Wings twenty years of playoff runs, it's never to get ahead of yourself and never to count the lower seeds out. Since he joined the team, Mike Babcock has worked hard to establish a strong, responsible two-way game that appears to have limited the success of a defense-first strategy like Jacques Lemaire's Devils. Still, there is a lot to learn from the David vs. Goliath playoff series of years past.

In a league that has playoff logjams near the final playoff positions, Detroit remains a top seed as of today. Will they be their own worst enemy again this season? Time will tell, but you can bet those losses still stick in the minds of those veterans still around. Hopefully, they won't let it happen again.